Are politics important or trivial, profound or superficial? Do they determine the whole course of our lives, or are they a thin veneer over the underlying constancies of human nature and inevitable exigencies of existence? I swing wildly, sometimes in the course of a single day, hour, or even minute, between these two poles of thought. Politics are everything, politics are nothing.

I suppose that the rational answer to the question is a dull one, namely that politics are sometimes very important and sometimes not, with every shade between. In general, our happier times are those in which politics are unimportant, when they are at most a competition for office, though we sometimes disguise the triviality of what is at stake by passionate argument. When nothing substantive can be changed, either because of the intractability of the situation or because, fundamentally, we are satisfied with...

 

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